I am all about travelling on a budget, and I’m here to help you can enjoy an epic vacation without breaking the bank! When it comes to cheap travel in the US it’s been a few years since I was in the States, so I asked some of my fellow travel bloggers for their tips on the cheapest places to travel in the United States – and here is what they came up with!
We’ve got some fabulous cheap destinations right across the USA, so you are sure to find something that suits you. From camping and hiking in National Parks to cheap weekend breaks, take a look at these awesome budget vacation ideas:
South Padre Island, Texas
Looking for a tropical island getaway without the high price tag? If so then visit South Padre Island Texas is the place for you.
After all, it’s easily one of the cheapest places to visit in the USA since you can stay at a beachfront hotel for less than $80 per night – depending on the season.
However, if that price is still a bit too steep, you can always pitch a tent or access an RV hookup at one of the area’s many local campgrounds, like the South Padre Island KOA.
Afterward, enjoy some of the best things to do in South Padre Island and explore the Padre Island National Seashore. It’s a stunning national park where the entrance fee is just $10 per vehicle per day.
And this price is well worth it since this park is home to 65 miles of pristine coastline that include Bird Island Basin Beach and Malaquite Beach.
Otherwise, you could always take in stunning street art along the South Padre Island Sea Turtle Art Trail, admire one of 30 different professionally made sandcastles that sit along the Sand Castle trail, or visit local wildlife at the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary for under $10 per person.
By Ketki of Enchanting Texas
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Located in the north-central part of New Mexico, Albuquerque is one of the cheapest places to visit in the USA. It is a perfect US city where you can find a rich history and an amazing combination of Native American and Spanish cultures.
September to November is the peak time to visit Albuquerque, especially in October when the Balloon Fiesta comes to town. Summer can be a little bit hot, but spring and summer are the best time to find great hotel deals.
This charming city of New Mexico is very easy to navigate. ABQ RIDE(bus service) is available throughout the city. The best and most convenient way to get around Albuquerque is by bus. It is very affordable to get from one neighborhood to another.
You can experience Hispanic flavors in almost all restaurants in the city. From the Native American culture, and gallery tours to historic Old Town, farmer’s market, and several art and history museums, Albuquerque offers plenty of free things and attractions for its visitors.
Explore the Open Space Visitors Center with your families and kids. Enjoy the open desert atmosphere, the view of the natural landscape and learn about different parts of the desert. The Harvey House Museum and The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology both are free museums. If you have an interest in the history of the old railroad or anthropology, these two museums are perfect for you.
Discover the historic Old Town of Albuquerque. It is the best way to experience the culture of the southwest part of the country. You will find here plenty of restaurants, boutique shops and museums.
Although there is no shortage of budget hotels in Albuquerque, staying in hostels is one of the cheapest ways to travel in the USA. If you want to save some money on your accommodation, stay at The Mother Road Hostel which is located near Albuquerque Convention Center.
Trijit Mallick, Budget Travel Buff
National Parks Money Saving TipIf you plan to visit several parks in a year, don't forget to buy your National Parks Pass, which can save you a lot of money and gives you access to all National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands in the USA.
The small tourist town of Moab in southeast Utah is perfect for budget travelers, and it’s loaded with great things to see and do nearby.
This area is home to the famous Arches National Park and the less known Dead Horse Point State Park, both of which are relatively inexpensive. You can also do lots of free hikes and other outdoor activities near Moab like off-roading, rafting, scenic drives, and more. A good Moab hike to check out is the Corona Arch trail, which is just 20 minutes from town and has a 140 foot wide natural rock arch!
There are lots of cheap basic campgrounds by Moab where you can stay right outside of city limits, or if you want to stay for free, you can do dispersed (primitive) camping on some of the many public lands outside of town, including scenic canyons where you can get lots of peace and quiet away from the crowds.
If you’d rather stay in town with more amenities, two budget-friendly campgrounds to check out the KOA Holiday or OK RV Park. They have tent and RV sites, cabins, lodge house rentals, and glamping tipis to choose from.
By David & Intan at The World Travel Guy
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Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho
If you are looking for an inexpensive place to visit in the USA, Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho is your best destination. Many people don’t think of going to Idaho, but this cute little western city really packs in a great deal to do, beautiful scenery and chances to get outdoors, as well as quaint and hipster cafés and brewpubs.
The biggest draw to Coeur d’Alene is the lake. You can take a lake cruise, go kayaking, hike some of the trails around the lake, and visit one of the many parks that border it. Downtown, especially around Sherman Avenue, you’ll enjoy the small shopping boutiques and restaurants.
There are a couple of great restaurants to try too such as the Garnet Café for breakfast, and the excellent Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese, soup and sandwiches to fit any palette.
Staying in Coeur d’Alene is much less expensive than in most parts of the country. Check out the comfortable Resort City Inn Coeur d’Alene where you can find rooms for less than $100, depending on the dates you are traveling. There are plenty of campgrounds options as well if you are driving, including the Blackwell Island RV Park, right near town.
You can’t go wrong with the beautiful surroundings of Coeur d’Alene. It’s great on the eyes and the pocketbook.
By Corinne, Roving Vails
Door County, Wisconsin
A visit to Door County will not cause any problems with your bank balance as you can visit here on a minimal budget and still have a wonderful time. It is great for budget travelers because most of the places are either free to visit or are open to everyone.
For a cheap vacation in the United States, you can enjoy a lot of outdoor activities in Door County for free. You can spend time outdoors hiking through trails and witness nature at its best without paying a penny. Door County has a lot of local town parks with calming beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan that you can visit without buying a ticket.
If you want to have a nice musical evening, visit local parks to spot local and international musicians. They play melodious music five days a week. You may even visit cafes and bars with live music, and some of them let you enjoy the music for free.
There are also countless Door County festivals, parties, and parades around the year, and if you have some budget for a tasting of local wines, do not forget to explore the iconic wineries in Door County.
Book an affordable but cosy place to stay like Snug Harbor Inn in Sturgeon Bay, which has some rooms facing the lake.
By Paulina, Paulina on the Road
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an amazing destination for those on a budget. There are over 500,000 acres covering Tennessee and North Carolina waiting to be explored.
Since you are in a National Park, there are loads of free activities. You could spend your days hiking one of the hundred-plus beautiful trails. Be sure to include one of the following waterfall trails on one of your hikes: Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls, or Rainbow Falls.
Drive through the beautiful Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Make the breathtaking scenic drive on Newfound Gap Road from the Gatlinburg entrance all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina. Enjoy cruising in your car or biking through the beautiful valley Cades Cove.
There is no entrance fee to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bring a cooler and pack lunches and drinks. Not only is this convenient, but it also saves a lot of money – just make sure you take all your trash back with you.
Camping is a great way to stay on a budget. Campgrounds here in the park are very affordable at a max of only $27/night.
If you’re not looking to camp, there are many affordable hotels located in nearby Gatlinburg for under $100 a night, including the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites at the Convention Center which includes a free daily breakfast, free Wi-Fi and a swimming pool.
By Kim, Traveling Swansons
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St Augustine, Florida
A great destination for budget travelers in the United States looking for some beach therapy is St. Augustine, Florida. It is a charming and historic town filled with lots of fun things to do. Whether you’re looking to spend a few days at the beach or explore the historic sites in the town, you will enjoy your time in St. Augustine.
Castillo de San Marcos is the fort in St. Augustine built b the Spanish to defend the city from pirates and forces from Great Britain. Along with touring the fort and enjoying the exhibits, there are ranger-led information presentations and weapons demonstrations. Kids under 15 are free and adult tickets are $10. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass you can get in for free.
One of the best areas of town to explore is St. George Street. This is a very walkable neighborhood with lots of things to see and do. This area of town has lots of historic buildings that are home to shops, cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. It is also home to the Oldest School House, dating back to 1716.
One of the best places to stay in St. Augustine if you’re on a budget is Anastasia State Park. The state park has lots of fun things to do with a beautiful beach. The campground in the state park has 139 campsites that are just a short walk from the beach. Rates are about $20 per night.
If you’re looking for a budget hotel room, the Budget Inn St. Augustine is a great option. The hotel has great reviews highlighting clean rooms and comfortable beds.
By Candice, CS Ginger
Norfolk, Virginia is the hip, lesser-known city in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News area. Because this bucket list place is a hidden gem, Norfolk is usually cheaper to visit than its neighbors with just as much to experience.
The best attractions in Norfolk, its museums, are predominantly free to visit. The Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and Glass Light Gallery all have free entry. The Chrysler Museum even has a free public glass blowing demonstration daily at noon! Or simply walk through downtown, which is peppered with murals and public art.
Norfolk is surrounded by water on three sides, so make the most of it at the Bay Inn Hotel, an affordable hotel with beach access. The beach is free regardless of where you stay; Ocean View Beach in Norfolk is lovely, or enjoy Virginia Beach’s more famous sands without the hefty hotel price tag. Make sure to dine back in Norfolk, though, where restaurants are much cheaper than Virginia Beach.
Even traveling to Norfolk can be done on a budget. A hot tip is to consider ground travel, often cheaper than flying. Check to see which months have the best deals; for example, a bus from New York to Norfolk is cheapest in August. If you prefer to fly, there are several airports in the region, so you can check prices to each airport on Skyscanner and find the best deal.
By Mary, Bucket List Places
Olympic National Park, Washington
The astonishing Olympic National Park sits on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state and is home to nearly 1 million acres of unique landscape. With rainforests, ocean beaches, and beautiful mountain ranges, it truly is one-of-a-kind.
There are some excellent hikes in the park, and some of the best include Mount Storm King, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, and the Hall of Mosses, each of which has its own unique features.
For those looking to relax, head to one of the many beaches within the park. Among the most popular are Ruby and Rialto Beaches.
One of the most popular things to do within the park is to visit the HoH Rainforest.
Because this is a national park, you can visit it at a very cheap cost. Simply purchase a park pass, and you’re set to go! To save the most money, opt for the America the Beautiful pass, which allows you to visit all national parks for one year, for just $80.
Once you’re inside the park, you won’t have to pay for any additional expenses (besides accommodations and food), which makes this destination perfect for budget travelers.
Although there are hotels and cabins around Olympic National Park, and lots in nearby Seattle, the cheapest option for accommodations during your stay is a campground. Within the park, you’ll find 4 campgrounds that are accessible to RVs and cost around $40 per night.
You truly won’t be disappointed by Olympic National Park, as it is one of the best cheap places to visit in the US.
By Kassidy, The Hiking Helper
This charming mountain town is not only the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but a perfect destination for budget travelers looking for a cheap destination in the USA.
To start off your budget trip, the Great Smoky Mountains is actually one of the few national parks in the USA that is free to visit! The sweeping mountain views right from the center of Gatlinburg may be enough for some, but if you are ready to explore there are over 522, 000 acres waiting for you!
After a day spent hiking in the mountains, what’s better than a free tour of the Gatlinburg Moonshine Distillery? Gatlinburg also has a vibrant arts & crafts Community where you can visit tonnes of art studios, shops, and galleries and a fun Trolley ride around the Parkway which is also free!
If you’re thinking of heading to the Dollywood amusement park and looking to save a whole day’s entrance fee, head there after 3pm. That way, you can enter the next day with the same ticket!
But it’s not just the huge range of free activities that make Gatlinburg a great place for budget travelers, the accommodation options here are also quite a lot more affordable than in major cities in the US. Gatlinburg View Lodge is a good choice if you want a cheap motel in town, otherwise, Camp LeConte is a super fun option for anyone looking to try camping or glamping!
By Yulia, Miss Tourist
Helen, Georgia is one of the cheapest places to visit in the USA, but it’s also one of the most unique destinations in the entire country. This Bavarian mountain town lies alongside a riverfront, and the charming architectural style of the buildings will remind you of a setting straight from a children’s fairytale book.
There are over 50 free things to do in Helen Georgia, so it’s the perfect place for any traveler who is on a budget. In downtown Helen, you can visit free museums or watch local artisans demonstrate their crafts at nearby shops.
Watch live glassblowing demonstrations at the Glassblowing Shop, watch wooden bowls being crafted by hand at Wright the Bowl Maker, and watch unique toys being constructed at Tim’s Wooden Toys.
Take a stroll through Unicoi Park for free, or visit the nearby Anna Ruby Falls to see the 150-feet-tall twin waterfalls for just a small $5 access fee.
Accommodations in Helen are also very affordable; most hotels cost between just $50 and $100 a night throughout the majority of the year. The charming Alpine Village Inn rarely costs more than $75 a night and is one of the best.
If you’re able to afford a little extra, you can even stay inside a real, working windmill at the Heidi Motel and Windmill Suites, or stay inside a riverfront castle at the Castle Inn.
When you get hungry, eat authentic German cuisine at the Troll’s Tavern, and sample free fudge from Hansel and Gretel’s Candy Kitchen.
By Jillian, Adventure Dragon
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
Tucked within the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, Buffalo National River is an incredible park managed by the National Park Service. The area is full of free hiking and camping. Buffalo National River is an excellent budget-friendly getaway if you love the outdoors.
There are many free trails to explore in the area. Be sure to hike the Centerpoint to Big Bluff (Goat Trail) with jaw-dropping views of the Buffalo River Valley. You don’t want to miss hiking the Lost Valley Trail to a massive bluff shelter, waterfalls, and a cave. You’ll also love hiking the Whitaker Point Trail, which is one of the most famous hikes in Arkansas!
Within the National Park boundaries, there are multiple campgrounds to stay in, such as Steel Creek Campground and Ozark RV Camp. Camping is reasonable at $20/night from mid-March to mid-November. When camping in the off-season, camping is free.
Erbie Campground is a more off-the-beaten-path backcountry campground that offers free camping year-round. All of these campgrounds are next to the Buffalo River. The campgrounds are in remote areas, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Read more about the campgrounds in the park here.
Depending on the time of year visiting the Buffalo, there are also multiple guiding outfits to float the river!
Outside of the National Park, the small town of Jasper, Arkansas, has boutique hotels to stay at with small-town rates if you’re not into camping. There is also a grocery store to pick up food and a few local cafes. The area is pretty rural outside of Jasper, so be sure to plan food and accommodations.
Northwest Arkansas makes for an affordable outdoor adventure with world-class hiking and adventuring.
By Ashlee, The Happiness Function
Cleveland, Ohio is a great city for budget travelers. Not only does its location on Lake Erie make it an awesome summer destination, but there are also numerous free attractions in Cleveland, like the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park or the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Cleveland Museum of art is so impressive that in 2016 it was named the 2nd Best Museum in the U.S. by Business Insider Magazine.
CVNP is Ohio’s only National Park and is home to numerous great hikes such as Brandywine Falls and the Ledges Trail. Just designated a National Park in 2000, it’s not as busy as some of the big-name National Parks and sprawls between the urban centers of Akron and Cleveland.
Another outdoor free attraction is Lakeview Cemetery. This isn’t an ordinary cemetery, but a historic grounds that contains the monuments for John D. Rockefeller and President Garfield.
For more free fun, watch the sunset from the Cleveland sign at Euclid Beach Park
One of the best hotels for exploring downtown Cleveland is the Drury Plaza Hotel. Rates are affordable for a city stay, and they also include a 5:30 “Kickback” Happy Hour and a hot breakfast. For a different option, the Hampton Inn downtown offers frequent specials on Groupon.
By Leah, Yoder Toter Blog
A great family-friendly city to visit, and one of the cheapest places to visit in the USA, is Pittsburgh, PA. Not only are there so many fantastic things to do in Pittsburgh with kids, but it is also known for being very affordable.
For a truly unique Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvanian experience, the Heinz History Center is a must-do. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, this interactive attraction includes Kidsburgh – a kids-only, interactive play zone, antique vehicles, and collections from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
It also hosts the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, and visitors paying full admission at the History Center can present proof of admission to receive free same-day or next-day admission at the Fort Pitt Museum, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.
As a city of bridges over its three rivers, one of the best views of the city can be seen from the top of Mount Washington, which can be accessed by a ride up the historic Duquesne Incline which costs $2.50 each way for adults, or $1.25 for kids.
If you are a sports fan, Pittsburgh is home to the Steelers, and a visit to Heinz Field is a must-do for any black and gold fan, and you can take a tour of the stadium for $10.
By Keri, Bon Voyage with Kids
Sedona, Arizona may have plenty of bougie art galleries and restaurants, but it’s actually chock full of cheap activities. Sedona’s main draw is, of course, its stunning red rock formations, surrounded by ponderosa pine tree forests and endless desert.
You could spend weeks here exploring the beautiful landscape, such as on any of the incredible hikes in Sedona, like the Devil’s Bridge, which takes you to a breathtaking sandstone bridge towering 54 feet above the desert floor below, or Cathedral Rock, where you’ll scramble up a mountainside for panoramic vistas of those famous red rock cliffs.
Want a spot to cool down from all that hiking? Check out Slide Rock State Park, where you can splash around Oak Creek and slide down an 80-foot long naturally slippery water slide that’s been worn into the sandstone. All of these outdoor activities are either free or have a nominal fee for admission or parking.
For affordable accommodations, there’s tons of camping here, from free dispersed camping spots, like along Loy Butte Road to more established (yet still incredibly affordable) campgrounds, like Cave Springs Campground. You can also check local hotels to see if you can find a good rate if you don’t feel like camping.
While Sedona’s affordable outdoor adventures are boundless, some things here, like dining out, can be relatively pricey. Not to worry, though, there are awesome happy hours, like at Cucina Rustica or the Open Range Grill and Tavern, to score some great deals on food.
By Jessica, Uprooted Traveler
Portland, Oregon, is an excellent place for budget travelers. And with this Portland itinerary you are setting yourself up for a perfect trip.
First of all, there is no sales tax in Oregon. You can save around 5-8% on everything from lodging to dining and shopping.
Portland also offers many cheap and excellent activities. It is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US. An extensive network of bike paths and rentals allows you to explore the city without ruining the budget. Moreover, public transportation is well developed, so you do not need to spend your money on cars. From the airport, you can quickly get to the center by bus.
Portland is one of the cities where the food truck trend began. There are gardens of food trucks throughout the city. Several dozen stands specialize in serving dishes from around the world. Street food prices are affordable, and you’ll melt away from the delicious flavors. It’s a city of craft beer and good coffee. About 70 local breweries operate here. Since competitiveness is relatively high, prices are great.
What are the best cheap activities in Portland? Take a walk through Waterfront Park. Admire bridges over the Willamette River; the Steel Bridge, the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, and the St. Johns Bridge are the most impressive.
Don’t miss the hike up to Nob Hill where you’ll have the best panoramic view of the city and Mount Hood from up there. Once at the top, visit the 1914 Pittock Mansion. In Portland you can also visit the world’s largest independent bookstore – Powell’s City of Books – and browse to your heart’s content.
For an affordable day trip from Portland, you can take a public bus to the spectacular Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.
By Agnes, The Van Escape
More Tips for Cheap Travel in the USA
Want More Cheap Travel Tips for the USA?Check out these blog posts about budget travel in the US, or click here to read all of my USA posts.
- The Best Cheap Weekend Getaways for Couples
- How to Travel for Free
- Free Things to do in Washington D.C
- Free Things to do in Miami Florida
- Free Things to do in Seattle Washington
- Free Things to do in Oahu Hawaii
- Free Things to do in New Orleans
- Free Things to do in Chicago Illinois
- Free Things to do in Detroit, Michigan
- Use Skyscanner to find cheap flights to your destination.
- Public buses are the cheapest ways to get to your accommodation from the airport, but a shared shuttle transfer is quicker and cheaper than a taxi - you can pre-book those on GetYourGuide or Viator
- Try Omio for booking trains and Busbud for buses including Greyhound and Flixbus.
Hire a Car
- Get a quote for car hire with Discover Cars who compare car rental deals from many companies so that you can choose which is best for your trip.
Book Tours and Activities
- I use GetYourGuide or Viator to book everything from skip-the-line entry tickets to food tours as I can compare options from several companies and choose the best one for me
- If you're staying in a hostel, check out their tours and activities which are usually free or very cheap - and a great way to meet people!
Get Travel Insurance
- Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel. I never leave home without travel insurance, so consider getting insurance for your trip to cover things like adventure sports and activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, stolen items, trip cancellation and more.
- Get a quote for your trip from True Traveller if you're based in the UK, or World Nomads or SafetyWing which both offer travel insurance for backpackers and long-term travellers. Alternatively, use a comparison site like Travel Insurance Master to find the best cover for you.
Check Your Travel Documents
- Don't forget to check the validity of your passport and any other documents for your trip. Use iVisa to check if you need a visa to visit your destination, and get up to date official travel advice from your government, for example on the Department of State website in the US or the UK government website.